EnvironmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

State Urged to Lead Probe of Indian Pt. Wastewater History

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More than 300 organizations, elected officials and residents are calling on New York State officials to investigate the Indian Point nuclear power plants’ decades of releasing radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River.

A letter was sent last week to Gov. Kathy Hocul, Attorney General Letitia James and several state agencies following a whistleblower report at a Holtec International-operated reactor in Massachusetts that tritium contaminated wastewater was being heated so it could evaporate and be released into the environment.

“Breathing evaporated water is more harmful than drinking contaminated water,” said Dr. Gordon Edwards, an international expert on nuclear energy and waste and one of the featured speakers at an Aug. 23 Zoom press conference. “It is a toxic legacy that will last for 100,000 years or more.”

Holtec International was planning to release approximately one million gallons of treated wastewater from the Buchanan facility this fall, but Hochul thwarted the company’s efforts when she signed a bill Aug. 18 restricting the discharge of any radiological substance into the Hudson in connection with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant.

The long-sought-after legislation, dubbed “Save the Hudson,” was spearheaded by State Senator Pete Harckham (D/South Salem) and Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg (D/Ossining) after concerns were raised over Holtec’s plans.

Holtec officials have maintained all nuclear power plants discharge treated effluent containing low levels of radiological effluent, which is regulated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Environmental Protection Agency.

The company has also stressed the practice of dumping the wastewater into the river from Indian Point has been occurring for the last 60 years and is the best alternative for handling the discharge at the 240-acre site.

Following Hochul’s action, Holtec officials released a statement indicating it may mount a challenge: “We firmly believe that this legislation is preempted by federal law and that the discharge of monitored, processed, and treated water would not impact the environment or the health and safety of the public. In the interim, we will evaluate the impact to our decommissioning milestones and the overall project schedule.”

“Enacting the ‘Save the Hudson’ bill was the first critical step in this science-driven process,” said Ellen Weininger, Director of Educational Outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education. “Now New York State needs to take immediate steps to develop a responsible, rigorous, and transparent plan that includes safe and secure on-site waste management and storage, thorough wastewater testing and other science-based solutions and policies with full public input.”

Anne Rabe, Environmental Policy Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, gave a “no comment” when asked if the letter sent to the state was prompted by a distrust of Holtec abiding by the law.

“The governor is backed legally under the federal Clean Water Act,” Rabe said. “There is clear authority of New York State to ban the discharge. If Holtec or the NRC decides to take legal action that would be unfortunate. This is really serious, and that’s why our first call is for a New York-led inspection.”

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